July 18, 2011


UK egg producers battle against low-priced eggs



UK free-range egg producers are fighting a cartel of UK packers who are claimed to have driven the price farmers are paid for their eggs below the cost of production.


UK egg farmer from Essex, UK, Ian Chisholm, who took on Tesco in a fight over packaging in 2009, says that while supermarkets are charging more than GBP3 (US$4.83) per dozen in some cases, egg producers are being paid just 75p-90p per dozen, forcing farmers collectively to operate at losses equating to millions of pounds per week.


He said, "UK egg production is now being sent the same way as the pig and dairy industry as the prices egg farmers are paid show no resemblance to the recent price increases consumers are being asked to pay for the eggs on the supermarket shelves. Feed prices and production costs have increased, and farmers are being forced to operate at a huge loss, while the packers make huge profits. Unless we fight back, more and more egg farmers will be forced into bankruptcy."


Chisholm believes that by collaborating, UK egg producers can change the way the industry operates and negotiate fairer deals for farmers. "We urgently need the Government and the Competition Commission to take another look at the way the egg industry operates," he said. "There is just not enough competition and some of the packers have a stranglehold on egg production which is forcing payment to egg producers down lower than the cost of actually producing those eggs. Unless something is done now for the industry it may be too late; a once-proud industry will start to collapse."


Chisholm has launched Egg Producers Together, an online portal aimed at uniting UK egg famers to campaign for fairer prices and raising awareness of farmers' plight. "Already we see signs of egg farmers carrying unhealthy levels of debt," he said. "Farmers are being forced into signing supply contracts with packing cartels without any guarantee of a minimum egg price. Banks are reluctant to lend on contracts that have no face value so egg producers are forced in to taking unviable finance deals with the cartel of packers supplying to the main supermarkets."


This is one area he insists must change for the future of the industry. "Our aim is to ensure that egg farmers must have a minimum price they will be paid written into their contracts. A contract with no price has no value at the bank." He has written an open letter to all producers to discuss direct action.

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